It doesn’t matter who is in the right—there’s no such thing as “right.” It’s terrifying to find yourself in that moment, yawning over a gulf that you didn’t know could exist. “I’m sorry—” “No, I’m sorry—” Unsettling to see the ground trembling distantly beneath you. Suddenly no amount of reassurance could undo this uncertainty—but perhaps there isn’t uncertainty at all. You’re waiting for a sign, an indication that nothing has changed. But if nothing changed then you’d still be stuck in that span of time before, still subject to the drop you didn’t know was on its way. And then when it came it would be devastating.
It feels like a lot has been on my mind this past week, like I’ve been shifting unsteadily between many different states… Spiritually and emotionally, I’m exhausted… I keep waiting for clarification, for rest, for ease. But it will never come. I have to find it in myself. Of course, today, the day of a big presentation, I’m sick—it makes sense, given where my mind and body have been. (There’s been no place for rest—my body is giving up just as the finish line nears.)
Where have I been? I keep running into these moments at home where I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t want to leave my apartment, but I want to go out; I don’t want to watch TV or a movie, but I want to be remade completely by the ups and downs of a dramatic visual program. I want to be moved and changed by the flux and surge of music. Most of all, I want to read—I want to bite into the piles of unread books that surround me everywhere I turn. But I must not want to read, because I barely do it.
I feel like I’m carrying something I can’t put down. But I’m not quite sure what that is. And I don’t know where to put it. And if I don’t figure that out soon, I’m worried I’ll keep the burden until I forget that I ever picked it up.
I’ve come to the end of a long journey. Tomorrow I arrive at the station. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s not a real end—there’s much more to do. But at least the train will stop long enough for me to get my bearings.
Getting deeper and deeper into something. Asking questions. “You’re quiet.” Wondering what would change, how to change, what can change. Feeling raw and trying to pay attention to that. “This feels like a very young you, in front of me right now.” What does that mean? “A confused you. An overwhelmed you.” I’d love to be able to focus on the material in front of me. I’d love not to be triggered by dealing with authority figures. I’d love to feel less contingent. You can feel precarious—existentially—even when things are going well. Even if—existentially—you’d be fine. Fine but upset. What do I mean by upset? Radical upheaval. Tectonic plates moving. Now is the time to work. But it’s also time to feel.
Viewing impulses to play The Binding of Isaac or Into the Breach for hours at a time as symptoms rather than decisions: I can’t decide when the feeling to lose myself comes over me, only how to respond. I feel “bad”—when I give in to it, but I feel “bad” before giving into it, too. I feel bad that I want to waste my life in this way, but at the same time it doesn’t quite feel like a waste. Only a kind of postponement (I have mentioned this feeling recently).
A meeting and a dinner on Monday. At the meeting people talked about volunteering with various leftist organizations… I thought, don’t I have time for that? Don’t I have time for that, and don’t I waste all of my time on compulsions? Then I went home. I was exhausted. I wanted to work on the story that I’ve been imagining myself working on, but I couldn’t. I wanted to watch television or a movie, to release something inside me and then go to sleep, but I wouldn’t let myself. (To release something inside me through writing fiction, too.)
I didn’t go to sleep until one-thirty in the morning, I exhausted myself saving the world perhaps three or four times. There were moments of perfection in that experience that I can still hang on to. Not as a kind of glory or triumph but a blankness. A pleasing blankness. But I felt worse.
Before going to sleep I asked myself: Why am I like this? Why am so depraved? Why can’t I spend my time volunteering, putting myself to good use? And I had a dream that night which seemed to directly answer the question. In it my paralysis and fear were one and the same: the dream described how I was never able to get answers. My mother shifting the blame, until she collapsed out of exhaustion. Movie monsters were shown, embodiments of my fear: tame, behind glass. I was invited to yell at them, tap knives against the screen. It was explained to me that the latter came from the former, from neglect, from violence, from lies and refusals of responsibility.
It all seemed so easy, something that could be fixed by knowing. But understanding is not the same as doing. I’ve written about this before. And perhaps I have never even understood.
The Bureau of Questions. R tells me something she learned in social psychology, that if you call someone and ask whether they are a charitable person, or support the idea of giving to charity, but without asking explicitly for money, it is difficult to get a no. Then—unrelated—you call them three days later and ask them to give money: a seven-hundred percent increase in donations. I’m not interested in money, although I’m glad to note the efficacy. A Bureau of Questions—a group that calls asks the right questions, questions that unsettle them or change minds. Questions that irritate, like grains of sand… Questions that pass so silently it’s almost as if they weren’t ever asked at all.
Reading the Arcades project on a foggy day (the Baudelaire konvolut)—I wanted to hop on my bicycle, ride to the city centre, pace underneath the huge buildings with my hands in my pockets, just like I used to when I first moved to the city and was finding my bearings. The city seems so small to me now—I know it in every cardinal direction. But then I was reluctant to go too far north of Bloor, too west of Bathurst, too east of Jarvis, though I circled that interior endlessly. It seemed inexhaustible somehow. The city wasn’t what it is now: or perhaps only in my mind it wasn’t, because I went out alone at every time of night and I was always safe. But it’s true that what I encountered was more than I encounter now (almost nothing). Then I was often stopped for directions, or accosted, a man grabbed me in the street, another pulled his car up to me at one in the morning and asked me if I knew the next street over, then if I wanted to get in his car. At two am I followed a drug dealer for blocks and watched him conduct a deal in front of a convenience store on Dundas.
The city was different then: there are stretches in the centre that would now be impossible to believe: a long line of low-slung discount stores on Yonge just north of Carlton, an adult store open twenty-four hours that played a recorded advertisement even in the early morning, just after the sun had risen… The restaurants, the bars seemed like they had less to offer me than they do now. But they were mysterious, unknown. I ordered my first alcoholic drink from a bar when I was eighteen, at Fran’s Diner on College, at two or three in the morning. An Irish coffee—an absurd choice, but I wanted to hover always in the space between dreaming and wakefulness. The facade of Sam’s, the square that was always under construction, the smell of the apartment in the summer, the impossible heat, the clanging dumpsters that would wake me up once a week… The city has changed a lot in the time that I have known it intimately. I have changed with it. It’s not the same city as it was then, even though some of the comfort and ease that I have with it now comes from the feeling that it is: that I am mastering it. That feeling is an an illusion. One day I will leave and I will carry my idea of the city away with me.